Monday, October 20, 2014

October Budget: My Favorite Items of the Month

As I read more and more blogs, I find myself becoming jaded with a lot of them, and the seemingly endless sponsor-parade and bottomless closets of many bloggers. The blogs that are most interesting in me are the ones that are transparent about shopping, closet additions, and remixing outfits because sure, anyone can look good in sponsored items, and it's exciting to see brand new outfits every post, but realistically, most of us are working with limited items.

I guess what frustrates me is the waste and indifference that can result when bloggers are just modeling borrowed sponsor clothing instead of showing their true style. It's hard for me to imagine that kind of blogging, mainly because I budget hard for each month and really delight in the items I buy, even if they are quite modest.

Here are some of the items that I will be wearing over and over in the next month. I hope you find these mini-reviews helpful!

Pink shaggy layered jacket from Forever 21

First up is this Forever21 shaggy layered jacket, one of my absolute favorite items ever. Imagine the softest animal you have ever petted. This jacket is softer. I know the layers of fringe makes my arms look like Chewbacca's, but the furriness is just irresistible . I would love to layer this as a shrug over a sparkly dress to bring some 1920's glamour to a party outfit. Note that the material is 100% polyester (not fur, because this is Forever21) and works better as a stole and not an external jacket.

Forever21 heart print cardigan

Speaking of jackets, I was pleasantly surprised by this heart print cardigan. It's 100% cotton (Forever21 usually makes sweaters out of awful acrylic) and the buttons have a cool crest pattern on them. Although this color is sold out for now, here's a similar one in navy.

Another surprisingly well-made item for $22.80 is this crossbody box bag in a coral-blush color (as seen on my instagram). It has a double zip detail down the sides, and doesn't look cheap or overly shiny. Additionally, it retains its shape really well, even though it's 100% PU.

Of course, who can forget this printed maxi dress that I posted about a few days ago? I called it the "Mother of Dragons" dress, and it's unique pattern can't be beat.

Forever21 dupe for Rag and Bone v neck varsity sweater

Back to more basic items: I've been stalking Rag & Bone's black and white v-neck varsity sweater for a while now, and my Forever21 store happened to carry a dupe! The v is a little low, true to the original, but nothing too scandalous. While I can't find this item online, Forever21 also carries a more modest v-neck version ($27.90)

Forever 21 grid print fold over skirt

Now this grid pattern wrap-over skirt is the only item I'm not totally sold on. It's only $17, but the huge gold zipper on the back and the thin material makes me pause. I also ordered this ASOS peplum hem skirt in check print(now on sale for $25!) to compare and we'll see which grid skirt wins my heart.

Completing my order from F21: I took a gamble with these ankle boots. I still have last year's version but found this year's iteration to be far more classic-looking and comfortable. Ankle boots aren't my favorite shoes (they still bite into my leg at that awkward spot on my shin), but while I could barely walk one hour in last year's booties, I made a whole day of classes from 10AM to 4PM in this year's version without wanting to cut my feet off.

Additionally, the inner arch design of this year's version is just more forgiving for my foot shape. While I won't be wearing these boots for days when I have to stand around or walk to school, I'm overall pretty satisfied with my impulse buy (and these boots have an all-around 5-star rating on the website).

Last but not least: you've probably seen lots of bloggers featuring their tartan scarves by now. Here's a great deal on a plaid scarf from Charlotte Russe. Yes, it's 100% acrylic, but at $5 a pop, it was easy for me to pull the trigger (it was actually harder to choose which scarf I wanted to go home with!)

P.S. In case you are wondering where September's budget went, you will find the culprit in this post.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Hummingbird || eShakti Navy Bird Print Dress Review

Eshakti bird print navy dress
EShakti navy gold bird print dress
Eshakti bird print dress in navy

Dress: EShakti, another bird print dress here
Bag: Forever21 ($25)
Cardigan: Mango, similar here
Shoes: Talbots, available in other colors

There is one reason you are seeing a sponsored review today: bra strap clips. Yep, you read that right: normally, you don't see a lot of reviews here on Another Beautiful Thing because I don't want my blog to serve as a publicity engine for companies. However, eShakti won me over as soon as this sample hit my doorstep. Because of bra strap clips. And pockets.

        TIME TO GET CREATIVE        

Let's back up: eShakti sells customizable clothes to-order---they design the patterns and prints, but you get to choose what necklines and details you want for your particular item. I've always wanted to test my fashion designing abilities, so when they gave me the option of picking and customizing one item, I immediately chose this flashy bird print dress and got to work changing up the neckline.

          HOW IT WORKS           

Once you pick a base pattern and print on eShakti, you can get to work customizing it with different sleeves, necklines, and lengths. Since I fit pretty well into a normal size "4," I didn't bother inputting my measurements, but for those of you with a bigger or smaller bust or hips in relation to your height, being able to adjust measurements throughout the torso is a boon.

Additionally, I loved being able to choose the lengths that are most flattering for me, especially since I hem or alter dresses quite often to help them mold to my body. Instead of having to take a dress to the tailor after I buy it, I get to dictate the hemming and alterations up front.

Here is the finalized dress, with a square neckline (I have never had an item with a neckline like this, so it was a nice change) and sleeveless straps. And here is where I fell in love:

         THE PROS         

Eshakti bird print dress with Talbots pumps

Bra strap clips and pockets are included. I can't tell you how loudly I gasped when I saw these details: clips and pockets cost about $5 to add onto a dress, but they add about $30 worth of value to the item instantly because I know my undergarments won't show and my pockets are fully functional. (I can't understand why women's clothing doesn't include these two features in default...but that's a rant for another day.)

As to the fit and material of the dress, it garners my highest recommendation: the dress body is a navy chambray material with a tulle overlay. There is no need to take this piece to the tailor like I do with other dresses because the waist is nice and snug, the concealed zipper works great, and the hem skims the most flattering point on my leg. 

           THE CONS          

The only complaint I had about my order was it took a whole month from the time I placed my order for my order to arrive. However, I have no doubt that this was due to the fact that eShakti was fulfilling the orders of other bloggers who also participated in the promotion. Also, I am willing to make an allowance for custom-made orders. Lastly, an eShaki rep was in constant contact with me about my ordering, updating me every time there was news about its trajectory, a level of service that really impressed me.


Good quality dresses made to contour for your body shape, and guaranteed to fit like a glove---what's not to love? Shipping time is long, but for a dress made to measure, the prices are fair (not quite F21 prices, but less than Anthropologie or Topshop). 

I would probably buy from eShakti for formal occasions when I can justify the price. Nothing beats having a custom dress that no one else is likely to replicate.

         READER DISCOUNT         

If you are interested in trying out eShakti, you can get $25 off by signing up for the first time. Additionally, use the coupon code "anotherbeautifulthing" at checkout for an additional 10% off your order until 11/15.

You can also find eShakti on twitter and Facebook for more design and customization ideas!

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Mother of Dragons || Dailylook Colorful Mixed Print Maxi Dress

Dailylook colorful print maxi dress
Forever21 Slit Faux Leather booties and Daily look colorful mixed print maxi dress
Daily look Colorful Mixed Print Maxi Dress

All hail Brittney, the First of Her Name, Queen of Apartment #12,  Lord of an Unlimited Bus Pass, Protector of the Kitchen Plants That Are Slowly Dying Despite Constant Attention, Khaleesi of a Great Number of Sushi-Themed Items, the Unburnt, Mother of Dragons.

I gasped out loud when I first saw this dress on DailyLook---if it was more blue, I could see Daenerys Targaryen wearing it on Game of Thrones. The pattern reminded me of dragon scales, and even the edges of the dress are streaked with red, as if the dress is slowly being consumed in flames and burning away.

Dress: DailyLook
Boots: Forever21 Faux Leather Booties
Lipstick: Sonia Kashuk "Red Orange"
Necklace: Macy's

Behind the scenes: fixing my hair and practicing my twirling.

Thanks for taking the photos, Z!

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Formal Sneakers || Nike Air and Mango Cardigan

Law school is all about networking and looking presentable, right? The top half of my outfit certainly speaks to my potential as a polished professional-in-the-making. However, one glance at my shoes and the reality becomes clear: I'm still a student, and running around from classes to meetings to office hours requires a level of comfort and flexibility that only sneakers allow. 

Tan Cardigan: Mango
Gray Sweater: Gap ($44)
Bag: Lauren Ralph Lauren
Sneakers: Nike Air ($75 and free shipping)
Sunglasses: Aldo ($12)

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Fashion Blogs and Haters: Why Women Should Not Always Have to Support Other Women

Fashion bloggers, fashion blogs, haters, and trolls. How to deal with constructive critcism

It warms my heart that women and girls today are realizing that we need to help each other, especially in a world that is disadvantageous and threatening. Sometimes, we really are our own worst enemies, and since we know exactly what kinds of issues other women go through, we should do our best to make that journey smoother.

But that is not what I'm writing about today. Sometimes, "haters" are not actual haters, and a lot of the time, fashion bloggers need to be called out on their behavior. Sometimes, the saying "women need to support other women" is, frankly, just not true and should not be used as an excuse to disregard constructive criticism.

How is it that constructive criticism is always met with allegations of jealousy or inadequacy?

Before I begin, I need to clarify that I am NOT saying that women should not support other women in all contexts. If you've read my blog, you know that I think it's a tragedy that girls consider other girls as competition, a mindset which can lead to negative self-image and self-imposed inadequacy. And I agree, women need to help younger women break into corporate offices, reaffirm each other's choices, and aid in each other's goals. I am completely behind all of these ideas, but I want to narrow down and focus on fashion blogging in particular, and the problems I see with validating all blogging behavior.

What frustrates me is the reason that I even have to preface my post with all these long, boring disclaimers is because I know I will end up making some other blogger angry, and they might send their fans over to my blog to accuse me of hating women or being a gender traitor. But if you are one of those people, I want you to rethink for one second the "women supporting women" doctrine that has been carried into ridiculousness in the world of fashion blogging. Repeat after me:

A critique on a blogger's deception, their affiliate link non-disclosure, or their response to readers is not a personal attack on the blogger. Or, to put it more bluntly:

"Women should not always have to support other women---especially if they are acting badly."

Fashion bloggers, haters, and criticism

Now, before you give me a lecture on, "like, the rules of feminism," let me explain. Other women should not get away with shady or devious practices just because they are part of our gender/sex and therefore entitled to more protection. Feminism gave us choice right? Including the choice to evaluate other women's decisions. It did not bind our hands or take away our ability to stamp down unacceptable practices. When a commenter or reader calls out a blogger for photoshopping their pictures, not crediting their recipes, or being rude to their readers, I find it absurd that the blogger (or their fans) will respond with: "wow, what a hater. Haven't you ever heard of how we need to build up other women?"

The truth is, while women DO need to band together in a lot of situations because of the obstacles uniquely facing them, a blogger should not get to use this defense when they engage in sketchy behavior. Some examples of said behavior:

  • Just last week I saw a blogger misspell the name of their own sponsor and, when a commenter pointed this out, they lashed out at a reader. 
  • Another blogger constantly photoshops her pictures (not only are real pictures of her available on other people's websites, but I used to have a huge problem with photoshopping my own body for a while and she uses similar tactics). 
  • A popular lifestyle blogger still forgets to credit their recipes when the recipes are taken from Cooks Illustrated and available with a google search. 
  • Many big bloggers now bury their affiliate link disclosures (which are required by law!) in their website footers (which breaks the law!). 
  • And of course, you all know that I refuse to support Stylish Petite because of the years and years of extensive plagiarism and copy-cat behavior with blogger Extra Petite.

Stylish Petite and Extra Petite

Yet these bloggers and many others have chosen to censor comments, delete comment sections, or guilt-trip critics by appealing to the "womanhood" defense. I get it---it's easy to pass off criticism as "hateful," and it boosts your ego if you assume that your critics are jealous or inadequate. But rather than taking this approach and automatically dismissing criticism, I think it's time to reflect back on the behavior that could be exacerbating these comments.

I see no reason why we cannot call out these mistakes and deceptions as unacceptable or fraudulent. I also think it's disappointing when fans or bloggers respond with "women need to build up other women and support each other! Don't comment if you can't say anything nice."

But why shouldn't I speak my mind? Are you saying that my critical thinking skills should be left at the door when I read your blog (if so, that's hilarious---you're basically saying your blog is so mind-numbing that I shouldn't have to think while reading it)? Are you saying that I can't critique your outfit or your sponsorship because you are a girl and we have the same private parts?  If so, do you know what they call a regime where a person gets a free pass on bad behavior simply because of their gender affiliation? Sexism. That's right, "good ole boys clubs" functioned on the same principle that these bloggers are advocating: overlooking a person's indiscretions because they are immune based on their sex. Wow, we've come a long way.

The simple matter is, if you do something that deceives or bullies your readers (a blogger recently tracked down critical commentators and posted info that she found on their facebook), I reserve the right to critique, no matter if you are a man, women, girl, or boy. I call that equality.

Women making critical comments should not be silenced and prevented from expressing their opinion with that silly phrase "women need to support other women!" If women are doing great things, if they are truthful, open, and engaging, I see no reason not to support them. But if they are perpetuating negative behaviors and using this trite slogan as a defense, then they need to grow a thicker skin, because there will be a lot more criticism coming their way.

Here are some preemptive responses that I anticipate:

1. "If you don't like it, don't read it!"

Don't worry---as soon as I see plagiarism or mistreatment of readers in a blog, I stop reading. But just because I boycott a blog doesn't mean I can't still write about its behavior, just like how you can boycott a store and still write an op-ed about its abuse. Rather than burying our heads in the sand and avoiding a blog, we should also have the liberty to bring light to any unsavory practices.

2. "How they run a blog is none of your business."

I'm glad you brought up the word "business." Blogs these days are a business (if you don't think your blog is a business, think about your use of affiliate links and reconsider). For instance, Pink Peonies is a licensed LLC business, and Cupcakes and Cashmere is on her second book deal. And like any business, consumers and readers are entitled to their opinions on the product.

Of course, a blogger can say, "I didn't ask you to review my product!" But the truth is, by publishing material to the internet, promoting the blog, and inviting readers, a blogger has opened the gates to fans and critics alike. I'm sure restaurant owners on Yelp wish they could delete negative ratings, but consumers are free to give their opinion unsolicited.

On the subject of Yelp: has anyone watched that "Kitchen Nightmares" with Amy's Baking Co.? The co-owner Amy refused to believe Gordon Ramsey; she claimed that her cooking was phenomenal and that negative reviews were just from "haters." Amy wanted to keep on cooking (bad) food and not receive any repercussions on Yelp! The internet exploded after that episode aired, with people calling Amy "delusional." That's how I feel about some public figures/bloggers who dismiss critics as "haters": they are acting like Amy, demanding to be able to keep doing what they love, and insisting that everyone loves the end product.

3. "You're advocating for women-on-women hate."

No, I'm not: I am only saying that legitimate criticism should not be brushed off with this tired excuse that feminism requires eternal solidarity between women. I will be the first to leap to a blogger's defense if there is any inappropriate or rude remark. But in my experience, commentators who even dare to say "I think those shoes are impractical" or "I wish you would make your budget posts less confusing" are immediately censored as "haters."

In my opinion, that behavior is more damaging than anything I've suggested above: it silences women's rightful opinions (god forbid any women disagree with a blogger!). Censorship in any form is a negative in my book.

Blogging is such a opportunity for women and girls to express themselves online and find a community. That's why I feel so strongly against bloggers and fans who censor budding opinions and critical thinking skills. So I ask you to reverse the roles: if "supporting other women" at all costs is so important to you, then let us as bloggers create a space where all respectful opinions are allowed and debated.

Young girls look up to bloggers to see how to treat fellow females. The least we can do is teach them to think for themselves.